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MLS All-Star Game heads back to Colorado, opponent still to be announced

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Major League Soccer announced on Wednesday that Colorado Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni will lead a teams of MLS All Stars against an international giant of the game in Denver this July.

Slated to take place on Weds., July 29 at 9pm ET, the MLS All-Star Game now has a date, time and locale… but who will take on the All Stars?

Last season saw the All Stars beat Bayern Munich 2-1, with All Stars coach Caleb Porter getting a rather notorious cold shoulder from Pep Guardiola and staff. Bayern was rumored to be interested in a rematch (presumably to assert their dominance). The league has also yet to welcome a La Liga giant like Barcelona or Real Madrid.

[ MORE: AFCON roundup ]

Seven of the 11 non-MLS opponents have come from England, though the last two matches featured AS Roma and Bayern Munich. In the past, CD Guadalajara, Celtic, Everton, West Ham United and Fulham have played the villain, with Manchester United and Chelsea each coming twice.

The league will also bring back the Homegrown Game for a second season.

USWNT dominate but struggle to finish in comfortable 2-0 win vs China

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The United States women’s soccer team is startlingly close to giving up its FIFA No.1 world ranking, but took a positive step by defeating China 2-0 on Sunday evening, with goals from Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Colorado.

The US has just a 24-point lead on Germany — 2,197 – 2,173 — after the Yanks bumbled their way to a seventh place finish in the 2014 Algarve Cup. It’s a testament to the dominant US that they were able to maintain the No. 1 spot after such a tournament.

China came into the two-game series — the two nations also square off at 11pm ET Thursday in California on the NBC Sports Network — as no shrinking violet, 16th in the world and boasters of victories over Norway and Denmark en route to fifth place in the Algarve Cup.

The story of the first half was largely about a lack of finish without Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach — the latter a second-half sub — as the US outshot China 15-0 but only put seven on target and one across the goal line.

Carli Lloyd sent a beautiful through-ball to Christen Press in the 26th minute. Press did well to step away from the keeper before firing the ball into the outside of the net.

A spate of strong box play in the 32nd minute ended when Lloyd booted an open look well over the bar. Moments later it was Press’ turn to fire wide after creating a brilliant chance, as it appeared a matter of moments before the Yanks would score (even if they had to march the ball into the goal sans shooting).

Lauren Holiday put the Americans on the board before halftime by collecting a Heather O’Reilly rebound and sending it home.

Jillian Loyden was called upon to make her first save in a big way as the cluck struck 48, getting a paw on a Chinese shot.

Substitute Rapinoe killed off any chances of a China rally when her free kick was inexplicably missed by several Chinese defenders in the 78th minute.

San Diego will be the venue for the rematch on Thursday, with live coverage on the NBC Sports Network at 11pm ET.

Snow sees Colorado-Philadelphia postponed, re-scheduled for Sunday

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[tweet https://twitter.com/MLS/status/310424731914469380]

Oh, c’mon! Are you telling me you couldn’t play in that?

Okay, I believe you. Putting the ball in the picture provides some perspective. Today’s game in Commerce was just not going to happen. Instead, MLS has rescheduled the Rapids’ home opener against Philadelphia for tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET.

From the linked announcement:

“As always, the safety of our fans, staff and athletes is paramount, and the conditions in the Denver area preclude the game from being played as originally scheduled.” MLS EVP of competition and game operations Nelson Rodriguez said in a league statement. “We would like to thank both clubs for working with us to plan accordingly and we look forward to their match on Sunday at 1 pm local time.”

An earlier starts and later finishes mean a few more Major League Soccer matches will fall into iffy weather windows. Today’s match was a casualty. Northern Europe deals with this every once in a while, and thanks to the ever-expanding MLS calendar, our domestic league gets to deal with it, too.

More, this time from Tim Hinchey:

“We had hoped and planned to play our match as scheduled, but we cannot put staff, fans, and players from both teams at risk by asking them to travel or play in unsafe conditions,” Rapids club president Tim Hinchey said in a statement. “The weather, roads and field will clear up by Sunday at 1:00, and we look forward to welcoming everyone to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for our home opener at that time.”

Commence with your obligatory soccer calendar observations. Feel free to assume Sepp Blatter’s reading. Now is the time.

Denver and DSG Park as U.S. World Cup qualifier site; anyone got a problem with that?

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So the choice has been made, the announcement coming later than most would have preferred.

Denver will be the site of the United States’ national team’s first home match in final stage World Cup qualifying. The Americans will play Costa Rica on March 22 at Dicks Sporting Goods Park.

Even before today’s official announcement from U.S. Soccer, the feet-stomping consternation was already growing to full boil. “Denver? Why doggone Denver? What have they done to deserve such a plum?”

Well everyone really needs to calm down on this one.

No, the Colorado Rapids aren’t setting attendance records. But Denver and Dicks Sporting Goods Park will serve just fine as a U.S. Soccer qualifier destination. In the big picture, U.S. Soccer should basically consider two things when choosing World Cup qualifier destinations:

  • Competitive advantages, foremost. This includes, but probably isn’t limited to, field conditions, any edge that weather might create, ability to tweak the crowd balance as much as possible and logistical considerations of the before and after.
  • Some degree of diversity and variety in venue selection. That is, geographic diversity across a big land (a game West, a game East, one in the Heartland, one in the deep south, etc.) and some effort to spread the significant U.S. matches among as many communities as possible within the context of the first consideration. (Because, do we really want a see a game in freakin’ New England every year, as U.S. Soccer once seemed determined to provide us?)

Within those two overriding considerations, it would be great if U.S. Soccer gave more weight to the MLS clubs that have spent handsomely to develop their own grounds, a la the choice of Houston as this year’s first U.S. men’s friendly site.

That’s about it.  No community should feel any more entitled to a match than the next one – no matter how well the MLS games do or don’t draw.